Holidays in Sitia - Hotels - Restaurants - Sightseeing
Holidays in Sitia mean peace, relaxation, endless beaches, lovely villages in the interior, and mezedes with ouzo in the evening at the rakadika (raki joints) in the town centre.
Practical Information on Sitia
Sitia is a fully developed market town and tourist destination, with everything you could ask for in the way of facilities.
Post offices, pharmacies, a health centre, banks and cashpoints, food and other shops, tourist goods and souvenirs, Sitia has it all, particularly along the roads leading to the main square above the beach road.
Hotels in Sitia
Sitia is not a town with large hotels. There are many smaller hotels in the town, and apartments and rooms for rent nearby, offering accommodation at reasonable prices.
If you’re looking for massive, all-inclusive hotels, you’ll be disappointed, although there is one on the east side of town which is known for its spa facilities.
Restaurants, Tavernas and Rakadika in Sitia
Sitia is famed for its good food and hospitable atmosphere. Most of the restaurants in Sitia are along the paved beach road, where you’ll see tourist restaurants offering international food, but also more traditional tavernas, with relatively reasonable prices and many different Cretan dishes and recipes.
The Sitians call the little tavernas serving mezedes (titbits) rakadika. You can enjoy your mezedes with raki, but you can also choose to wash them down with wine, beer or ouzo.
Some of the traditional local dishes are omaties or omathies (pork chitterlings stuffed with rice, chopped liver, sultanas and spices), xygalo (type of creamy cheese) and, above all, Sitian sweet cakes.
Xerotigana and Kalitsounia in Sitia
Sitia is famous for its xerotigana (crispy pastry spirals with honey), which are slightly softer and lighter than those you may have tried elsewhere.
The kalitsounakia (sweet cheese pastries) are small and square and leavened with yeast.
Bars and Cafés in Sitia
Sitia has several bars and cafés which work as bars in the evening.
You can enjoy a drink in one of the seafront cafeterias and bars, with a view of the sea or the Kazarma fortress, prettily lit up at night.
Apart from the seafront, you can also find bars in the side-streets of the town. Some of these are small but welcoming and tastefully decorated.
Sitia nightlife is not exactly hopping; things are relatively calm and quiet, as Sitia is not a place for clubbing, but you can certainly enjoy the warm, lovely nights in a more relaxed atmosphere.
The beach at Sitia
Sitia has a large sandy beach extending left of the harbour almost as far as Petras.
The beach of Sitia is not wide but it is fully organised, offering sports and watersports. It is very busy and noisy in the summer, particularly the part nearest the town. There is a small beach volley area, waterski and windsurfing facilities.
The beach, which had been awarded a Blue Flag, is open to the winds, so it can often be quite rough.
However, don’t forget that there are wonderful beaches to visit on the east coast of Crete, such as those of Palaikastro, Vai or Kato Zakros.
What to do in Sitia - Sightseeing
Sitia is a fascinating tourist destination because there are so many things to see, and also because it is the perfect base from which to explore East Crete.
Apart from its beach, its rakadika and its few narrow side-streets, you should visit the Sitia Archaeological Museum and the Kazarma Fortress.
If you’re interested in seeing a few more museums, it’s worth visiting the Sitia Folk Museum, with examples of weaving, woodcarving, local costumes and icons dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. The exhibits have been collected by the Vitsentzos Kornaros Cultural Association.
In Sitia there is also a museum of local farming products operated by the Union of Agricultural Cooperatives of Sitia, for the promotion of local products and the development of local farming.
Sitia is famous for its exceptional olive oil, the local wine (Sitia OPAP), and Varvaki tsikoudia (raki).
Sitia is very close to several beauty-spots and archaeological sites, one of which is Zakros. The archaeological site of Zakros is 45 km from Sitia and 500 m from Zakros village. Excavations there have brought to light a large part of the Late Minoan city and major treasures. The Minoan Palace of Zakros is one of the four Minoan palaces found in Crete, along with Knossos, Phaistos and Malia.
At Zakros you can also walk down the Zakros Gorge of the Dead, so called because the Minoans buried their dead in the caves in the sides of the gorge. It’s an easy 2-3 hour walk in summer, ending at the beach of Kato Zakros, next to the Minoan palace.
Palaikastro is also well worth visiting. Early and Middle Minoan tombs have been found in the area, along with large numbers of bones and other finds. Excavations at Palaikastro continue, but one of the most important finds is the Sanctuary of the Dictaean Zeus, where an inscribed plaque bearing the Hymn to Dictaean Zeus was discovered. The hymn asks Zeus to provide bounty, bringing joy to men and making the earth fruitful.
The Monastery of Toplou is just 10 km from Sitia. This is one of the most important historic monasteries in Crete, dedicated to the Panagia Akrotiriani (Our Lady of the Cape). It is also one of the richest monasteries in Greece, producing large quantities of farm goods and wine, sold both in the monastery itself and in shops across the country.
The Vai Palm Forest: if you’re in Sitia, you absolutely must visit the palm forest of Vai, one of the most beautiful landscapes in Greece and among the most popular in Crete. Thousands of people visit the beach at Vai each year, attracted by the marvellous scenery, which was discovered by the hippies a few decades ago.
There are several small islands with rare flora and fauna off the coast of Sitia, including the Dionyssades Islands, a nesting site for Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae).
In Sitia harbour you will find the visitors’ information centre, where you can ask about boat trips to these islets.
Many festivals and cultural events are held in Sitia. The Kornareia festival is the best-known summer event, but you can also go to the local festivals and try the local traditional dishes.
The Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin (15 August) at Palaikastro, the Feast of St John (29 August) at Zakros, and the Feast of St Panteleimon (27 July) at Roussa Ekklisia are all extremely interesting.
If you’d prefer a livelier nightlife, try Ierapetra, about an hour’s drive south-west of Sitia. Ierapetra is a thriving town in Lassithi, boasting many bars and nightclubs, the Venetian fortress of Kales and some lovely beaches.
About an hour’s drive west of Sitia is Agios Nikolaos, the capital of Lassithi Prefecture with its famous lake.